Challies' The Next Story
Tim Challies, (2011), The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Pastor, author and blogger Tim Challies asks three important questions about technology. He deals mainly with the impressive development of the technology of the CPU, Internet and digital communication. The three questions are (1) 'if technology was somehow taking over my life', (2) 'if it was remaking me in its image', and (3) 'if it was making me a tool of my tools'. His approach to answering these three questions is systematic as he deals with the theory, theology and experience of technology in the areas of (1) communication, (2) mediation/identity, (3) distraction, (4) information, (5) truth/authority and (6) visibility/privacy. Though there is scope for a wider work, the questions by its design imply his personal experiences and reflections.
Whether we are in a post-digital explosion era or still in the digital explosion era may still be argued. The social media is still expanding and the next 'killer' apps may be just below the horizon. The digital revolution, for all its hype is still limited to a few prosperous countries while the majority of humankind is not able to read or write, least of all to use a computer.
Are we in the 'next story' is also open to debate. Technology does not change human nature, only the means for human nature to achieve their purposes. One would not call the era after the invention of the printing press which is the technology similar to the present digital revolution the 'next' story. It is still the continuation of the human story.
Challies' experience with the digital is an interesting read but is hardly representative. He was right that his book was descriptive but it contain just too much history and facts about the digital revolution. Unfortunately there are too many of such 'descriptive' books in the market. However I have enjoyed his 'prescriptive' and learned much from his suggestions for Christians in the use of the digital media. One idea that stands out his is suggestion that we become accountable for our blog postings. I have never though of that though I have accountability groups for other aspects of my life. The book will may be better if it is more prescriptive.
Challies asked three important questions that need to be considered. Will the digital technology enslave us, keep us in bondage and force us to worship idols. With respect to Neil Postman and Marshall McLuhan, I believe that human nature has not changed since the time of creation. At present, we just have more toys to play with. We have in our human nature the propensity to addiction. Digital technology offers yet another thing to be addicted to. Living in another time, those who are enslaved and addicted to digital technology will have found something else to be addicted to.
What has changed is the way we live. We have always multi-tasked. Most of us can walk and talk at the same time so it is not something new. What is new is that we can walk and talk at the same time with someone on the other side of the world with our mobile phone.
This book is in scope comparable to Tapscott's Grown Up Digital (my review here).